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A miscellany of ports stories by JOHN O'SULLIVAN

Sullivan blows Parker's trumpet

SCOTT PARKER might appreciate the sentiment but probably not the manner in which it was expressed – or the timing.

The ethos of team sport maintains that every member has a valued role, which needs to be discharged effectively for the unit to function successfully.

Some players are celebrated more by a manager or supporters for a variety of reasons including skill, leadership and work ethic but rarely championed to the complete exclusion of every single team-mate. West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, though, decided not to spare the feelings of the team’s players – Parker was the exception – after a particularly fraught season at Upton Park. The fact Gianfranco Zola’s team narrowly avoided relegation from the Premiership appears to have offered no mitigation in terms of the co-owner’s view of the squad. Sullivan admitted: “Other than Parker, there is not a player we wouldn’t sell if it was the right bid.”

There is no doubt that these comments will guarantee that Parker will be on the receiving end of “dressingroom banter” and while most will be good-natured, the human aspect of the situation might make the player wish Sullivan had kept his thoughts a little more private.

Holmes was youngest to be capped

LISA AND Leona Maguire’s selection on the Britain and Ireland team for the Curtis Cup clash with the USA in Boston during the summer represents another remarkable milestone for the Cavan twins, who at 15, become the youngest members of the team in the history of the biennial match.

Their precocious talent is hardly a secret given the trophies they have already amassed at home and abroad but it does offer an endorsement to the hoary old chestnut that suggests “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.

Golf, Swimming and tennis would have produced teenage sensations on a regular basis but from an Irish senior national team perspective several field sports have been graced by very young talent.

On May 30th, 1971 Jimmy Holmes become the youngest ever player – eclipsing Steve Heighway’s record – to be capped for the Republic of Ireland soccer team at 17 years and 200 days. He came on as a substitute for Don Givens in a 4-1 defeat against Austria at Dalymount Park in a European Championship qualifier.

Hailing from Meath Square in the Liberties, Holmes joined Coventry City from the Dublin club St John Bosco in 1970, reaching an FA Youth Cup final in the same year while also turning professional. The cultured left back made his debut for Coventry on December 4th, 1970 against Leicester City and would go on to play 128 matches (six goals) at Highfield Road before joining Tottenham Hotspur in March 1977 for a fee of £120,000.

He played 81 games for Spurs but his career was curtailed by a horrendous broken leg suffered while playing for Ireland against Bulgaria in Sofia (1979). The cast put on the compound fracture was too tight and led to serious complications. Holmes drifted in and out of consciousness on the plane journey home, forcing the squad to land in Switzerland where Holmes received better medical attention.

He went on to have brief spells with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Leicester City, Brentford, Torquay United and Peterborough United. He was given a testimonial game by the FAI in 1985 – he won 30 caps for his country but only one after the Sofia game – when an Irish XI beat a Glenn Hoddle XI.

He subsequently joined the Midlands police and once when on duty at Coventry City donned playing gear again when a player didn’t show for a testimonial. Holmes, along with his partner PC Holly Smith, were awarded Chief Constable’s Commendations in August 2007 for disarming a man with a loaded gun and bulletproof vest while they themselves were unarmed.

Irish rugby’s youngest debutant was outhalf Frank Hewitt, who was 17 years, 157 days when he steered Ireland to victory at Cardiff Arms Park in March 1924, a proud family occasion as the team also contained his elder brother Tom, also making his debut, who played on the wing. It was truly a memorable day as both Hewitt brothers scored.

Frank was just over a month younger than the previous record-holder in the Championship, Willie Neilson of Scotland, who dropped a goal on his debut against Wales in 1891 when aged 17 years, 201 days. The Hewitt brothers each won nine caps for their country.

In GAA terms the youngest player this column came across to have played in an All-Ireland Senior Football final was 16-year-old Patsy Lynch of Cavan who lined out at centre half back in 1928.

Unfortunately Cavan were pipped 2-6 to 2-5 by Kildare but the teenage Lynch figures very prominently in a variety of reports on the final, acquitting himself very capably in both attack and defence.

League say nein to City's keeper request

MANCHESTER CITY are in danger of being labelled Indian Givers following their request to the Premier League authorities to take back Joe Hart from Birmingham City, having originally agreed to a loan deal that would see the goalkeeper remain at St Andrews until the end of the season.

The reason City wanted Hart back is the dislocated shoulder suffered by their first choice, Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, during the club’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal last weekend and the fact back-up goalkeeper Stuart Taylor was recovering from knee surgery and David Gonzalez, City’s fourth choice, has a groin problem.

The Premier League ruled, though, that City possessed nine goalkeepers on their books, more than enough to cope with the goalkeeping crisis, much to the annoyance of the Manchester club, who eventually signed up Marton Fulop, Sunderland’s third choice goalkeeper, on loan.

So who are the other nine goalkeepers other on the Manchester City books? We thought we’d have a look at the options open to City boss Roberto Mancini in Given’s absence.

Gunnar Nielsen (23): The Faroe Islands’ number two who came on when Given was stretchered off injured against Arsenal.

Joe Hart (23): He became the City number one under Sven-Göran Eriksson but, with Shay Given’s arrival, his star waned and he is now, of course, on loan at St Andrew’s.

Stuart Taylor (29): He was signed by previous manager Mark Hughes in July 2009 after being released by Aston Villa. He is recovering from knee surgery.

David Gonzalez (27): A Colombian international, he was a free agent last year when he joined Manchester City after a trial.

He is sidelined with a groin injury.

Louis Karius (17): A German teenager persuaded to move to City from Stuttgart by Hughes in May last year.

Tobias Johansen (19): The Norwegian-born goalkeeper has been loaned to Kongsvinger in his homeland. He signed an extension to his contract in 2008.

James Wood (19): Welsh-born Scot, son of the former Arsenal, Everton and Scotland goalkeeper George Wood.

Nathan Dean: A Manchester United-supporting 19 year-old, he was spotted as a schoolboy in St Helens in 2004.

System shift sees boost to ticket sales

IT SEEMS Fifa’s concerns about the possibility of empty seats at this summer’s soccer World Cup in South Africa has been allayed somewhat by a shift away from an internet-based ticket sales system to allowing an over-the-counter purchase scheme.

A large percentage of the South African population would not have access to the internet but the change to a cash-based system just under two weeks ago has seen a figure of 29 sold-out matches climb to 40.

There are still some 130,000 tickets to be sold for the tournament that begins on June 11th.

In changing the system of ticket purchase FIFA accepted that they had completely misjudged the local culture.

Poor black fans are the country’s biggest soccer supporters and many have neither access to the internet or bank accounts.

The 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics organisers seem to be having no such problems as on-line ticket registrations (www.tickets.london.2012.com) for the eight millions tickets available, which only opened last month, have already hit the one million mark.

Tickets go on sale via the application process in spring 2011, but prices have not yet been revealed.

Slush Puppies cool for athletes

SLUSH PUPPIES could be beneficial to sports people, according to a study by a New Zealand endurance athlete and exercise researcher. That also applies to an “ice slurry” or “slushie”, to use other terms for the sugary, water-based ice drink. This should send Irish athletes running to their nearest stockist.

It is apparently scientifically proven that pre-cooling the body temperature prior to exercise can delay the onset of fatigue.

Cooling vests to wear before exercise or even portable cold baths for pre-race immersion are popular methods to which now the Slushie has been added.

The findings of the study – reported in the New York Times – reveal that young male recreational athletes who drank a syrup-flavored ice slurry just before running on a treadmill in a hot room could keep going for an average of 50 minutes before they had to stop. When they drank only syrup-flavoured cold water, they could run for an average of 40 minutes.

There are mitigating factors. The running test was indoors, so there was no cooling effect from, say, a breeze. The study really tested endurance rather than performance: so an athlete might last longer but not necessarily go faster. The effect was short-lived, according to the senior investigator, Paul Laursen, at the New Zealand Academy of Sport in Auckland and a competitor who has raced in 13 Ironman triathlons (a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike race, followed by a marathon 26.2-mile run).

Athletes who compete in sports that take a long time to complete, like a marathon, would not see much of a benefit but it would be a more appropriate fit in tennis, soccer or rugby. Dr Laursen said he thought of using Slushies because they can lower brain temperature in swine more effectively than cold water. The swine studies were testing methods to cool the body before surgery. He reasoned that the particular concoction might also effectively cool the body before exercise. The advantage, he said, is they are even colder than ice – 30 degrees Fahrenheit – an effect that occurs when sugary water is swirled with crushed ice.

Dr Scott Montain of the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine tested the findings of the survey and basically concluded they were accurate; but that he gave a far more comprehensive medical diagnostic.

So those looking to exercise in the sweltering heat of the Irish summer might care to do a little Slushie-loading beforehand!